“A thrill of hope. The weary world REJOICES . . . .”
With our country still gripped by the Coronavirus pandemic, we are forced to drastically alter our Christmas celebrations. But that shouldn’t stop us from giving thanks and rejoicing this Christmas.
It’s an understatement to say 2020 has been full of challenges, but it has also brought us blessings. This year, Christmas is going to be very different than most.
As Americans, we are blessed with the ability to spend the holiday with loved ones, even if in much smaller groups. We must remember the ones who can't be home at all this Christmas. Especially the men and women in the Armed Forces who sacrifice their time and talents to serve our nation – and to defend our freedoms – here at home and abroad. Our thoughts and prayers are with them this Christmas season.
And we realize that while we have the freedom to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, countless Christians all around this world dare not celebrate Christmas. They are not free to openly worship, for fear of violent, and even deadly reprisals.
In Nigeria, some 2,200 innocent Christians have been killed this year alone, simply because of their faith. Still more won’t make it to the new year. And countless other Christians face serious persecution for their faith. The ACLJ continues to fight for Christian teen Leah Sharibu, who is spending her THIRD Christmas in the violent grip of Boko Haram, which has held her prisoner since kidnapping her and other teens from their school in 2018.
Violent radical Hindus are abusing Christians in India, threatening some that they must renounce their faith in Jesus or else run for their lives. And Christians feel helpless because the authorities often won’t report the incidents but will side with the Hindu perpetrators.
This year, we helped free an American pastor who was wrongfully detained in India because of his Christian faith. And we have urged the United Nations to pressure India to stop the rampant persecution and ensure its police protect Christians.
And despite the fact that Iran’s own constitution guarantees religious freedom, Iranian Christians continue to face horrendous persecution and harassment. Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani remains locked behind bars in a notorious Iranian prison after he was beaten and arrested in 2018 for his faith. We have gone directly to the U.N. asking for intervention to obtain his freedom.
In China, Christians face regular abuse, harassment, and intimidation from local authorities. Churches and believers are closely monitored, and neighbors are encouraged to spy and report on one another. And Christian pastors have been rounded up and arrested. The ACLJ continues to work on behalf of Christian Pastor John Cao – a U.S. permanent resident – who is currently serving an unjust prison sentence for his faith.
China wants to suppress the spread of Christianity in its country by any means necessary. We’ve stood before the U.N. Human Rights Council to urge international pressure on China to honor its U.N. charter and stop the persecution of its Christians, as well as to release Pastor John Cao.
My prayer this Christmas – that the power and love of our Savior will permeate a very troubled world and that the birth of Christ will bring hope to those who are not free to practice their faith.
As Christians, we know that there is hope; and that is why we can rejoice, even during difficult circumstances. Our God is merciful and provides strength, comfort, and healing – even in the midst of a global health emergency.
As the Gospel of Luke 2:10 reminds us: “‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’”
This Christmas, we want to ensure that the light of Christ shines into the darkness of the world. In fact, did you know that is actually one of the reasons we have Christmas lights? (You can learn more about this in our latest episode of Bald Beagle – our children’s channel for kids.)
We know the coming year will surely bring its own unique challenges.
But there is indeed good news. Now more than ever, we at the ACLJ are committed to fighting for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.
And this Christmas, we renew our commitment to defend our Christian faith from those who wish to silence us – in this country and around the globe – now more than ever.
From my family, and the entire ACLJ family, to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.
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